Lifeskills Mental Health Blog

Erasing the Mental Illness and Addiction Stigma

Erasing the Mental Illness and Addiction Stigma

Mental illness and substance use disorders often have a social stigma attached which sparks a lack of compassion from others. The stigma surrounding these illnesses can hinder people from seeking treatment. Those suffering often say the humiliation they feel discourages them from getting treatment and makes their difficulties worse.

Defining Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association describes mental illness as health conditions that can involve a change in thinking, emotion or behavior. Mental diseases are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Anxiety disorders are the most common, followed by depressive disorders.  Other common mental illnesses include:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines substance abuse disorders as occurring when continued use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically or functionally significant impairment, which includes health problems, disability, and failure to meet significant responsibilities at work, school, or home. Substance use disorders may be caused by dependencies that include:

  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine

Dr. Daniel Bober, Lifeskills South Florida Medical Director, contributes much of the stigma to a limited understanding of these illnesses. Openly discussing these issues and understanding the causes is key in helping to view them as valid health problems.  Mental illnesses typically develop due to a combination of psychosocial, genetic, and environmental factors that can include:

  • Growing up in an urban environment
  • Bullying victimization
  • Nutritional deficiencies or exposure to toxins
  • Ethnic minority status
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • History of childhood abuse or neglect
  • Infections during pregnancy


In a given year nearly one in five (19%) of U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness, and one in 12 (8.5%) has a substance use disorder. A co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis exists when both a mental illness and a substance use disorder are present. According to SAMHSA, 7.9 million Americans suffered from a co-occurring disorder in 2014, with rates highest among those ages 18-25.

Mental illness and substance use disorders not only affect individuals or their families; they affect our entire society. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that substance abuse costs the U.S. more than $740 billion per year, attributing to related crimes, lost productivity, and healthcare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that mental health treatment cost the United States $186 billion in 2014.


Dr. Bober has been a practicing psychiatrist for over 15 years and has helped numerous individuals effectively manage their mental illnesses and addictions. He recommends several effective, established, and evidence-based methods for treatment including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and motivational interviewing, as well as medications.

Treatment for substance use disorders requires a comprehensive approach that includes:

  • Counseling
  • Medication
  • Peer and family support
  • Recovery support services
  • Inpatient, outpatient, or residential treatment

At Lifeskills South Florida, our healing environment promotes recovery, resiliency, and self-determination. Using a comprehensive assessment, including genetic processing and family assessments, our physicians and therapists design a program tailored to the needs of the client that complement the therapy with secondary supports. We incorporate elements of mindfulness, meditation, and integrated primary care, which offers individuals the opportunity for complete recovery.

With the proper treatment, those suffering can live productive lives despite the often chronic and long-term nature of some symptoms. Statistics have shown that over 80% of those with schizophrenia can avoid relapse after one year with the proper combination of treatment, medication, and family intervention. Up to 60% of those with depression can recover with a combination of therapy and medication.

Erase the Stigma

With so many suffering from these disorders, it is imperative that others begin to recognize these illnesses as severe health conditions. Mental illness and addiction must be viewed the same as other legitimate medical illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. To erase the stigma and open the door for those suffering to receive treatment without shame, we must all work together.

Klay Weaver, Lifeskills CEO says, “The stigma associated with mental illness and addiction can be devastating to someone who needs help and we understand that entering residential treatment is one of the first steps in recovery. Lifeskills is an accredited treatment program that helps individuals manage their disorder and learn the skills needed to move toward successful functioning.”

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness or addiction, Lifeskills South Florida can help. Our clinicians are master or doctorate level professionals, licensed in Florida with multiple certifications in their respective specialties. They provide treatment that focuses not just on the presenting problems but targets the underlying disorders that contribute to them. Lifeskills South Florida is one of the most distinguished treatment centers in South Florida offering residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and transitional living accommodations for those suffering from addiction and mental health disorders.

Excellent, Compassionate Care

If you’re ready to start your recovery, we’re here to help.

Payment Options

Our facilities are private-pay, but we can also work with out-of-network benefits.

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